Atrium C-Qur Hernia Mesh Trial Set To Begin Remotely Next Month Has Been Delayed

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Atrium C-Qur hernia mesh lawsuits has decided to postpone the first “bellwether” trial, which was set to go before a jury remotely next month.

Atrium Medical Corp. currently faces nearly 2,500 product liability claims in the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that the company sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous hernia mesh product, known as C-Qur (pronounsed “secure”), which featured a unique polypropylene patch design with an Omega-3 fatty acid (O3FA) gel coating.

While this design was intended to reduce scar tissue formation and promote fixation of the mesh to the abdominal wall, plaintiffs claim that the Atrium C-Qur patch actually increased the risk of an inflammatory response, bowel adhesions and other painful complications, often resulting in additional surgery.

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Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed throughout the federal court system over the past few years, the Atrium C-Qur cases have been centralized as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) since December 2016, with U.S. District Judge Landya McCafferty presiding over coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

To help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the hernia mesh lawsuits, Judge McCafferty previously established a “bellwether” program, where a small group of representative cases have been prepared for early trial dates.

While the first Atrium C-Qur trial was originally scheduled to begin in May 2020, the start of that trial was delayed as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the United States, resulting in social distancing requirements that have disrupted the entire U.S. judicial system.

The Court previously selected a claim filed by Carrie Barron to be the first to go before a jury, and trial was set to begin on January 20, 2021, with indications that technology would be used that permitted the Court, parties, witnesses and jury to participate remotely.

In an order issued earlier this month, the Court indicated that the trial date has been continued, but there are no indications the delay was caused by the on-going pandemic or issues conducting the Atrium C-Qur trial remotely.

At a status conference held on December 10, Judge McCafferty granted plaintiffs motion in limine to exclude evidence from the trial related to the “fast tracked” approval process used by the manufacturer to introduce the Atrium C-Qur mesh. In light of that ruling, the parties all agreed that the scope of other pending motions about the admissibility of certain regulatory expert testimony will need to be narrowed significantly, resulting in a further delay the start of the Barron trial.

The Court indicated that a pending motion for summary judgment filed by the manufacturer will be scheduled for oral arguments via videoconference. The attorneys involved in the case have ben directed to file a joint brief several days before that hearing to inform the court about what remains to be decided on pending regulatory expert motions.

Following resolution of these pretrial issues, it is expected that Judge McCafferty will reschedule the start of the trial, which may still need to be held remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the outcome of the Barron trial, as well as a second “bellwether” claim brought by Martha Luna, which is expected to be held sometime later, will not be binding on other plaintiffs, the trials will will be closely watched by parties involved in the litigation. How the jury responds to the evidence and testimony may have a substantial impact on any¬†hernia mesh settlements¬†negotiations that may be necessary to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials in various U.S. District Courts nationwide following the coordinated MDL proceedings.

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